'Big goals' and 'infectious enthusiasm' cited in teaching awards
Five members of the Engineering School faculty were honored this year for their accomplishments in teaching and mentoring students.
Andrew Houck, an associate professor of electrical engineering, received the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching. Houck was one of four faculty members who received the award at Commencement June 4.
Colleagues credited Houck for fueling interest in electrical engineering courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Under his oversight, the course "Introduction to Quantum Computing" has more than doubled in enrollment, drawing students from across the sciences and engineering. "Andrew's high-quality teaching and his infectious enthusiasm for the topic, which at times can be very technical, have made the course a major hit," noted a faculty member.
"When working with me, he has spent a lot of time teaching me how to think and be a good experimentalist, rather than just solving my problems," one graduate student said.
Claire Gmachl, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Electrical Engineering, was awarded the School of Engineering and Applied Science Distinguished Teaching Award. Since joining the Princeton faculty in 2003, Gmachl has developed several new courses, including an introductory optics class and the engineering school's graduate-level ethics research course.
In voicing support for her award nomination, colleagues cited Gmachl's innovative teaching methods and her dedication to her students. "SEAS is blessed with many great teachers. What sets Claire apart is her amazing record of mentoring," one wrote. "She takes on the mentoring role with almost a missionary zeal."
Students recounted examples of Gmachl working late or making an extra effort to help them with their projects. "I wish to someday be as much of an inspiration to a peer of mine as she is to me," one said.
Michael McAlpine, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, received the University's Graduate Mentoring Award, which honors faculty for their support of graduate students' development as teachers, scholars and professionals. McAlpine, whose research focuses on combining electronic and biological materials, recently taught classes including an introduction to nanotechnology and mathematics in engineering.
"Professor McAlpine told me in our first meeting that he encourages us to pursue big goals," one student wrote. "To achieve a big goal, novelty is essential, and therefore the very first thing I learned from Professor McAlpine was creativity."
Robert Sedgewick, the William O. Baker *39 Professor in Computer Science, and Kevin Wayne, the Phillip Y. Goldman '86 Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, were awarded the excellence in undergraduate teaching award by the Princeton chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. The two lead courses in algorithms and introductory computer science. In the past academic year, Sedgewick and Wayne taught more than 250,000 students as part of the University's participation in the Coursera educational website.
"Their hard work has paved the way for countless students to go from not knowing the first thing about computer science to being able to apply it and even making it the centerpiece of fulfilling professional lives," seniors Max Rabinovich and Ilias Giechaskiel wrote in their commendation.